Attracting and Retaining Millennials in the Global Workplace

Categories: Diversity & Inclusion


When you think about the global workforce, what thoughts come to mind? Many people imagine a multinational company that values cross-cultural communication and searches for the most effective global networking and production practices. There are many factors that affect the global workforce and its approximate 3 billion workers, but one of the most important is effectively communicating across generations in the workplace.

Communicating with individuals from multiple generations is bound to bring about certain stereotypes about the way each generation works, speaks, thinks, etc. Many of these stereotypes involve the influx of millennials in the workforce. However, stereotypes are dangerous to the whole of society, so it’s important to focus on statistics when making generalizations about groups of people. Whether it is nationality, race, gender, a physical characteristic or economic status, stereotypes about people are common. They also paint distorted perceptions, and they are damaging to our social – especially our global – relationships.

One group of people often the target of stereotypes is millennials. Millennials are often misunderstood – especially in the workplace. As global organizations struggle to attract and retain millennial talent, it is wise to investigate the statistics. Doing so proves that their values are, on the whole, different from those of the generations that came before them.

Who Are the Millennials?


Also known as Generation Y, the Millennial Generation is the generation following Generation X. They are also known as Generation We, the Global Generation, Trophy Kids and commonly The Generation of Entitlement.

Millennials were born in the early ‘80s through the beginning of the new century, and there are more than 2.5 billion millennials around the world. Examining global statistics about this diverse demographic provides useful insight into their shared values and implications about their differences.

Millennials Around the World

A 2011 survey conducted by PwC asked 4,364 millennial graduates across 75 countries questions about their attitudes toward the workforce. All respondents were under 31 years old at the time of the survey. Consider the following survey statistics:


Another study conducted in 2012 by Viacom International Media Networks interviewed 15,000 millennials from 24 countries in 19 different time zones. Some of the findings are as follows:

Further studies show that U.S. millennials want flexible work schedules and are also concerned with their overall happiness and well-being. Consider the following two statistics:

While cultural differences in the global workplace are aplenty, there are many similarities between millennials around the world. Investigating surveys about millennial culture on a global level helps to dissect the demographic, debunk the stereotypes that mislabel it and better understand its unique characteristics.

Millennials’ Shared Global Values

Statistically speaking, millennials believe in themselves and shared power to create a better world. They believe that access to the Internet changes the way they think about the world. They believe, largely, that technology enables and empowers them.

Millennials know crisis, chaos, and change.

They were shaped by the 9/11 attacks, Lula Da Silva’s election, the 7/7 U.K. bombing, Barak Obama’s election, the Arab Spring, the tsunami in Japan, and the launch of iPhones and Facebook.

Millennials know economic uncertainty, as well as a fear of job security.

Common Misperceptions Associated With Millennials

There are many misperceptions associated with millennials, many of which stem from the workplace. By 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce. Since the early 2000s, when millennials first began entering the workforce, there have been struggles with opposing ideologies.


After examining the common misperceptions associated with millennials and the workplace, it’s clear that they are just that – misperceptions. Debunking the stereotypes and understanding their origins can help employers make the first step in learning to attract and retain them.

Misperception: Entitled

The one word used most frequently to describe millennials is entitled. Millennials were born to late Baby Boomer parents who might have coddled them or Generation X parents who may have been inclined to spend more time with them. Millennials, on average, were constantly told how special they were and that their dreams were achievable. Largely, they have been rewarded for everything and given a “trophy” for participating.

On the surface, it’s easy to see that millennial culture radiates the perception of being spoiled or entitled. Digging a bit deeper, though, it becomes much more complex than that. Millennials want to feel as though they are completing good and meaningful work, so it’s vital that managers offer them constructive criticism that builds their confidence. Millennials must understand that their bosses will not coddle them even though their parents might have, and accepting criticism is a part of growing as a professional.

Misperception: Lazy

Millennials grew up with technology – and watched it evolve and transform the world. They are excellent multitaskers, and they are prone to finding easier ways to complete tasks in order to save time and resources. Employers should understand that millennials often seek multiple ways to complete a task. At the same time, millennials should work to be sure their efforts accurately reflect their hard work – and that they are working just as hard as everyone else.

Misperception: Lack of Respect for Authority

Millennial workplace culture often comes with the image of a young professional questioning an older boss about the way things are done. To Baby Boomers and members of Generation X, this can come off as disrespectful. The truth is that the Millennial Generation was raised to ask questions. If they don’t understand why something is done a certain way, they will likely ask for an explanation. As a whole, the demographic is not afraid to test the status quo.

It’s important that employers realize that properly answering questions can lead to a greater understanding and better work from the millennial workforce. Plus, questioning the way things are done is not necessarily displaying a lack of respect. It is possible that there is indeed a better, more efficient way to complete tasks. Motivating millennials in the workplace can be as easy as listening to their ideas – and implementing them when they’re worthy.

However, millennials must learn that it is not wise to question every decision made within a workplace. There is often a delicate balance of authority within a place of business, and every company culture is different. Millennials should be patient as employers get to know their work styles and adapt to their way of completing tasks.

Misperception: Poor Work Ethic

As the statistics prove, motivating millennials in the workplace comes with the chance to complete meaningful work. Also, the statistics prove that, largely, millennials put life before work and expect their bosses to understand that fact. Millennials have a strong work ethic, but not in the sense that may be typical to Baby Boomers and members of Generation X.

Millennials seek a unified work life and home life, rather than a failed attempt at balancing the two like they might have witnessed with their parents. Generational diversity in the workplace is clearly shown in this perception of work ethic. The older generations seek to separate work and fun. Millennials want work to be fun. To find a common ground, millennials should readjust their ideas of entry-level work at an established company. Part of this may be accepting that they must earn their place and climb the ranks. Employers should work to offer flexibility whenever possible and learn that there are other, more innovative, ways of completing work than traditional methods.

Misperception: No Loyalty to Employers

While it is often perceived as a lack of loyalty, millennials realistically understand an unsteady job market. They watched as their parents, aunts, uncles or possibly grandparents lost their jobs and struggled to find work. They watched as the housing market crashed and retirement funds were lost. The Millennial Generation is also the most educated generation, meaning they feel confident moving from one job to the next if they are unhappy.

A perception of knowing what they want and having the confidence to seek it out can be misconstrued as a void of company loyalty. Millennials should learn to put some trust into their employer if it is deserved. Employers should work to develop programs that build trust with the millennial workforce.

What Millennials Want in the Workplace

After debunking the misperceptions associated with millennials and the workplace, it is appropriate to take a close look at what exactly millennials look for in a job. The statistics prove that the majority of them want to be their own bosses, and that they value meaningful work. Besides that, millennials place high value on the following:

Common Generational Conflicts in the Workplace

Generational diversity in the workplace has created a unique set of conflicts that arise. While generational conflict has always been present in the workplace, it has become increasingly apparent as the youngest generation has settled – and become comfortable – in the workforce. Some of the few common conflicts are as follows:

How to Attract Millennials

Attracting and retaining millennials in the global workplace comes with particular struggles that become easier to overcome after analyzing the statistics and looking at the facts. To attract and keep millennials, consider the following:



Blur the Generational Line of Separation

Communicating across generations in the workplace is difficult when there is clearly a separation. Aim to provide a workplace that values the individual characteristics of each employee rather than classifies people into groups according to his or her age.

Statistics help human beings form intelligent opinions and plan or make changes accordingly. Stereotypes, however, are in general harmful and damaging to the progression of an organization – and to society as a whole. There are a few ways to blur the line of generational separation in the workplace and work toward a unified organization across every demographic.

Create and Implement an Inclusive Company Culture

Create an atmosphere that is conducive to comfortable, happy employees who complete valuable work. For that to be possible, an understood company culture should exist. Allow employees to share their values and give input about what the company culture should reflect. Consider the following ways to implement an inclusive company culture:

Besides creating an inclusive company culture, generational diversity in the workplace comes with the need to implement proper management strategies. Older generations grew up with strict rules. Millennials naturally want to share their ideas and find more productive ways to do things. Simply put, the older generations tend to comply with authority and the younger generation wants to question it. This is why it’s vital to create a management system that makes everyone feel valued and appreciated.

Proper Management

Generational diversity in the workplace comes with an expected amount of conflict, but the key is to handle it properly and turn that tension into something positive. Consider the following tactics to help with building strong management in a global organization:

Besides constructing an effective management model, it is also wise to find ways to allow employees of different backgrounds to connect on a more personal, and deeper, level.


mentorship in global projects

Mentorship may be the single best way to promote effective intergenerational relationships in the workplace. It must be understood that both parties, the mentor and the mentee, have something to learn and gain from the relationship. For example, mentees can learn from the corporate experience of the mentors and gain valuable insight, and understanding, about their values. At the same time, mentors can take a lesson about technology or the work/life balance from millennials. Consider the following ways to appropriately utilize mentor relationships in the global workplace:

Beyond mentoring, advice from outside of the organization can be helpful in learning to appropriately manage and promote healthy relationships in the global workplace. When resources are limited or a fresh perspective seems warranted, there is always the option to hire a team of professionals to help.

Consider Aperian Global

If you want to attract and retain millennials to your organization and realize you could use the expertise of professionals at your side, consider Aperian Global. The statistics prove that we are a trusted resource for many global organizations. Consider the following:

The experts at Aperian Global are passionate about supplying clients with consulting, training and online learning solutions for global talent development. People innately want to communicate effectively, but individuals of different ages and backgrounds often struggle with learning how to work well across cultural differences. Aperian Global helps to minimize this struggle, working to seamlessly and compassionately build teams across boundaries for the global workforce.

Contact us today for more information about how we can help your global organization achieve its goals.